Political management was the dominating feature of Scotland's governance prior to 1832. For years after the 1707 Union with England the transfer of Scotland's parliamentary representation to Westminster had remained a contentious issue. The 1725 Malt Tax riots in Glasgow were a particularly glaring example of the strength of anti-Union feeling. The tax was popularly seen as an unwarranted English imposition and a blatant attempt to undermine Scottish interests. In response, the governing elites attempted to control manifestations of discontent over the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. They nurtured a system whereby in return for Government favours and patronage, a political manager worked to ensure the loyalty of Scottish MPs. In the burgh constituencies, the manager also delivered the votes of the town councils which elected the MPs.
Glasgow first came under the influence of the powerful John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll (1678-1743), in the wake of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. In 1716 his nominee, Daniel Campbell of Shawfield (1671-1753), was returned as the Clyde (or Glasgow) Burghs' MP. Argyll's "managerial" influence was further consolidated in 1725, when Prime Minister Robert Walpole (1676-1745) entered into a working relationship with the Duke and his brother, Archibald, Earl of Ilay (1682-1761). Ilay was responsible for bringing Glasgow Town Council firmly in line with Government policy, despite profound civic unease about the implications of the Malt Tax. For much of the 18th century successive Clyde Burghs' MPs had close family connections with the Campbells.
Following the death of Ilay, who had succeeded his brother as 3rd Duke of Argyll, the dynasty's grip on Glasgow gradually diminished. By the 1780s Scotland's new political manager was the shrewd Edinburgh-based lawyer, Henry Dundas of Arniston, later 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811). Dundas cultivated Glasgow's merchant community through such economically advantageous measures as securing a Government loan to allow for the completion of the Forth & Clyde Canal. In return, the Clyde Burghs generally returned MPs in the Tory Government's interest. However, soon after Dundas's death there were signs of changing times. In the general election of 1812, Kirkman Finlay (1773-1842) became the first native Glaswegian in seventy years to represent the constituency. His progressive views, notably on issues such as franchise reform and free trade, indicated a more independent direction in the city's politics.
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